MLB Flamethrowers: Hot/Not Fantasy Pitchers Weekly

Bret HoffmanCorrespondent IMay 5, 2009

"Flamethrowers" is our Monday topic at during the MLB season. In these articles, we attempt to showcase the hot pitchers, as well as the not so hot pitchers.

These pitchers, in no particular order, are hot/not in my eyes.


1. Johnny Cueto-Reds

Cueto, the 23 SP for the Reds, is five games into his second big league season. And over his first five starts, Cueto has only given up six ER.

Cueto, the victim of a couple of no decisions, is 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA. He has 29 K and a WHIP of 1.04.

He is owned in 81.7 percent of ESPN leagues, after a 10.3 percent increase this past week. If you are looking for starting pitching help, Cueto is a great pickup, if he's still around.  But you better hurry because he won't be there much longer.

2. Chad Billingsley-Dodgers

Billingsley improved to 5-0 on Sunday by striking out eight Padres over seven innings of two ER ball.

His ERA is sitting at 2.21, and he has a WHIP of 1.03. He also has 42 K, to only 16 BB, in 40.2 innings. And the best thing about him is that he's only 24 years old.

Billingsley, Johan Santana, and Dan Haren are battling it out for NL supremacy.  And if the season ended today, it would be a tough call.

3. Dan Haren-Diamondbacks

Haren is filling the shoes of Brandon Webb as Arizona's ace.  And I must say, he's doing one hell of a job.

All six of his starts have been "quality starts" or a start of six innings or more with three ER or less. His ERA is at 1.65 and his WHIP at .74. He has leads the NL in K with 47, and he has only allowed seven BB in his NL leading 43 innings pitched.

The only thing that isn't amazing about Haren's stats is his 3-3 record, and that's only because of lack of run support. His team has scored him 13 runs over his past three starts, which were all wins. And that production is head over heels better than the one run they scored him during his first three starts, which were all loses.

If they give him four or five runs a game, he is gonna be tough to beat. He could very well be the NL Cy Young winner come seasons' end.

4. Dallas Braden-A's

Braden has pretty solid numbers for the A's thus far. The 25-year-old has an ERA of 2.10 with a WHIP of 1.37.

The WHIP is getting up there, but the thing that worries me the most about Braden is that he only has 18 K in 30 innings, plus he has issued 12 BB.

He has thrown pretty well all season, but his control problems have kept him from going very deep into the games, which costs fantasy owners points.

Still, at only 4.4 percent owned in ESPN leagues, he's someone to look at, or at least monitor, if guys in your rotation are struggling.

5. Yovani Gallardo-Brewers

The new Brewer's ace has pitched very well so far in 2009.

He threw eight scoreless innings, striking out 11 Pirates, on April 29 to improve to 3-1 on the year. Heck, he even hit a solo HR, which was the only run of the game. He did it all.

He has an ERA of 2.86, a WHIP of .87, and 34 K in 34.2 innings. Those are great numbers, especially for a 23-year-old with only 26 career big league starts.

I love this guy going forward in any league, but especially in keeper leagues.

He gets those same Pirates tonight, so it should be another good outing. Sometimes the second go round is a little rougher, especially when they just faced him last week.  But I still expect him to pitch fairly well.

6. Tim Wakefield-Red Sox

Wakefield got a little roughed up by the Rays on Saturday, but he still managed to get the win.

But besides this one outing, Wakefield has pitched very well in 2009. His ERA climbed a bit to 2.91, which is still great.  And he has a WHIP of 1.09 with 22 K.

Wakefield's strikeout numbers aren't overwhelming, but he's a veteran guy, on a good team, that can get you 15-20 wins. He is owned in only 38.1 percent of ESPN leagues, so pick him up with confidence, if you have someone who isn't cutting it.

7. Wandy Rodriguez-Astros

Rodriguez has pitched well for the Astros this year, but you can't tell by his 2-2 record.

Much like Haren and Cueto, Wandy has been the victim of poor run support. In both of his losses, his team failed to score a single run. Hard to win if you can't score. And unless the pitcher also throws a shutout, he loses.

He has good stats with an ERA of 2.19, a WHIP of 1.14, and 30 K. Opponents are only batting .216 against him, so he deserves better than a 2-2 record.

I love this guy, especially for the second half of the season, because the Astros have been a great second half team for the past few years. Give Wandy a little run support, and he could easily win 15 games this year.

8. Zack Greinke-Royals

I can't make a hot pitcher list and leave him off, I'm sorry. But, he really is deserving to be on here every week, at this point.

I thought he might fade off a bit, but that hasn't happened. He has an ERA of .50, a WHIP of .89, and 44 K in only 36 innings. Plus, he's only allowed eight BB.

Greinke would easily win the AL Cy Young award if the season ended today.  So, he makes the list yet again. He faces the White Sox tonight.  You can't help but expect him to pitch well at this junction.

9. Jair Jurrjens-Braves

Jurrjens, at 23 years old, has been one of the better Brave's pitchers so far.  But his 2-2 record doesn't really show it.

Like the others that have been mentioned, he has been a victim of poor run support in his loses. He has an ERA of 1.89 and a WHIP of 1.29.

The thing that worries me about him is that he only has 16 K against 14 BB in 33.1 innings. The walks are what is making his WHIP so high.  So, if he can cut down on those, he would become a more productive fantasy option overall.

In his last start he only went two innings, but that was because he didn't return after a lengthy rain delay. He gets the Marlins on Thursday, which isn't a horrible matchup for him.

He is owned in 82.5 percent of ESPN leagues, so you might check on his availability in your league if you need another SP.

10. Johan Santana-Mets

Like Greinke, how could you leave this guy off a hot pitcher list? Santana, who is typically the best second-half pitcher, is all of baseball and has been one of the best in the first half in 2009.

His ERA has climbed to 1.10, which is relatively high for him this season, but still incredible to all the human pitchers. His WHIP of .95 and his 44 SO in just 32.2 innings are astounding as well.

Santana is the man, what else can you say about him. If he doesn't win 20-25 games this year, it will only be because his team didn't give him enough run support.  They have already cost him two wins at this point.

11. Chris Volstad-Marlins

Volstad won his first two starts of the season, but his last three have all been no decisions. So, he sits at 2-0 on the season, with an ERA of 2.67, a WHIP of .99, and 27 SO in 30.1 innings.

Owned in 95.2 percent of ESPN leagues now, Volstad would be a great pickup, if he's still around in your league. He will take the mound on Tuesday against the Reds.

At 22, he's another young gun we can probably expect to see produce for years to come.

12. Zack Duke-Pirates

Duke pitched very well on May 1st, going seven strong innings against the Reds, giving up only one ER and six H. Duke took the tough-luck-loss though, because the Pirates were blanked that day.

The 26-year-old's stats are solid with an ERA of 2.21 and a WHIP of 1.12. Duke really isn't a strikeout pitcher, with only 21 in 36.2 innings.  But he's been effective none the less.

He is owned in only 49.6 percent of ESPN leagues, and I think he's worth a look in every format.

He will pitch against the Cardinals on Wednesday.

13. Ryan Franklin-Cardinals

I had to throw a few relievers in the mix, and Franklin has been one of the best this year.

He has seven saves for the Cardinals, with an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of .58. He also has nine K in 10.1 innings of work.

That's getting the job done right there. He is owned in 86.2 percent of ESPN leagues, so pick him up ASAP, if he's still around in your league.

I'm not convinced that he can keep this up all year, as I think he will eventually lose the closer job at some point.  But you might as well ride the streak while it's hot. And if it doesn't end, even better, right?

14. Frank Francisco-Rangers

I didn't know what to think when I heard Francisco was going to be the Ranger's closer in 2009, but he has been superb so far.

He has seven saves with an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of .51. He also has 10 K in 11.2 innings, which is a pretty good stat too.

He is owned in 97.9 percent of ESPN leagues, and should be owned in 100 percent with numbers like that. Check and make sure he's not still available in your league.

The problem with the Rangers is that they are all or nothing, usually. Which means it's either a close game or it isn't. If they give him the opportunities, I think he could easily save 45-50 games in 2009.

15. Chad Qualls-Diamondbacks

Qualls has pitched very well for the Diamondbacks, who find themselves in quite a few close ball games.

Qualls has six saves with an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 1.00. He has 14 K in 10 innings, which is fantastic.

He is owned in 94.5 percent of ESPN leagues, so he's the most available of the three relievers I mentioned. Chances are, he's already gone in your league, but it doesn't hurt to check.

I really don't know much about him, but I do know that if he falters at all, Tony Pena Jr., who has also pitched very well, would slide into the closer role.

So check on Qualls, and keep an eye on Pena.

Honorable Mentions

Kyle Lohse has pitched well for the Cardinals. He is owned in 84 percent of ESPN leagues, and is a good pickup, if your staff is struggling.

Edwin Jackson, except for one outing, has pitched well for the Tigers. He is owned in only 28.2 percent of ESPN leagues, so he's another option. He faces the Twins tonight, so check him out.

Kevin Millwood continues to pitch well for the Rangers. Owned in only 68.6 percent of ESPN, he's another solid option to consider.


1. C.C. Sabathia-Yankees

I can't believe this, really. He was so good at the end of last year, practically carrying some fantasy teams into the playoffs on his back.

He has a 4.85 ERA, a WHIP of 1.38, and only 24 K in 32 innings. Plus, he's 1-3.

I have to believe he will eventually get it together. Man, I never saw this one coming. If you can buy low, I would advise you to do so.  C.C. will get it together, and the Yankees will get an offensive boost when A-Rod returns.

2. Jake Peavy-Padres

Peavy has struggled to start 2009, but is another great buy-low player.

He pitched great during his last start against the Dodgers, and his career numbers are much too good for him to stay down.

He made the list because he has a 4.58 ERA, but I actually love him going forward. Find the one guy in your league who focuses solely on stats, and take Peavy from him.

3. Justin Verlander-Tigers

Verlander has a 5.66 ERA on the year, but he too has actually pitched well lately. His last outing was against the Yankees, so maybe he's finally figured it out.

You can probably get him relatively cheap, so I think he's worth a gamble. Now is the time to pull the trigger though, because with a couple more good starts his price will go up.

4. Jarrod Washburn-Seattle

I know his stats are good, but stay away from Washburn. I think the streak is over, hopefully you enjoyed it while it lasted.

There are better options out there than Washburn.

5. Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers

With an ERA of 5.46, I can understand why people are dropping him. I think he will be great in the future, but I expect mixed results from here on out in 2009.

He's a great buy-low option though, especially in keeper leagues. Like I said, this year is a toss up.  But I think he will eventually be a great pitcher at the major-league level.

That's all I have for this week.  Tune in next Monday for more Flamethrower action.


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